In The Bunker with Mick the Grip

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Designer Brian Curley plays his now extinct Sunshine Hills course.
Designer Brian Curley plays his now extinct Sunshine Hills course.

PREMIER XI JINPING’S CLAMPDOWN on the building of golf courses in China meant the loss of many years’ hard work and investment for western course architects.   Renowned designer Brian Curley lost several high profile courses, including Sunshine Hills and the 54-hole Stone Forest International Country Club, Yunnan.

Tom Doak had been 3 years building Simapo Island course in southern Hainan Province, which has warm winters and was envisaged as a tourist hub for Asian golfers, but a halt was called by central government, citing improper use of water and arable land.

Courses had often been built as part of luxury housing developments and described as “leisure facilities” while local governments looked the other way.  But Xi Jinping was concerned about corruption by unscrupulous entrepreneurs. “Like fancy cars and mansions, golf is a tool that businessmen use to hook officials,” one state-owned newspaper said.  But golf is the passion of many Chinese people and the luxury golf clubs were not going to go away.

In October (Virus permitting) the Asia Pacific Golf Group will be holding the 2020 World Golf Expo in China.  The three day exhibition, open to the golf trade and consumers, will be held at the Mission Hills Golf Club, Haikou, a complex of 22 18-hole courses.  It will comprise a two-day high-level business summit and The Asian Golf Awards.

World class tournaments like The WGC-HSBC Champions (won in 2019 by Rory McIlroy) are held at Sheshan Golf Club near Shanghai, an oasis of pure air and unbelievable luxury, with a joining fee of around £300,000. The Tuscan imitation villas sell for up to £30m and are amongst the most valuable area of retail property in the world.

All this is no consolation to Brian Curley, several of whose courses now stand deserted.  Remembering Stone Forest, which he had designed near a World Heritage Site, he said nostalgically: “It was stunning, with sharp and hazardous rocks, and the open areas and thorny bushes were thick with spider webs with massive spiders, so walking the site was a bit of an adventure.”

On second thoughts, perhaps golfers won’t miss Stony Forest so much after all.

TO RAKE OR NOT TO RAKE. Most of the players in this area never rake the bunkers anyway so we won’t notice any difference!

TIGER WOODS WAS ELECTED to join the World Golf Hall of Fame in March, although he won’t be inducted until December, when he turns 45.

Tiger won his first major by 12 shots with an 18 under par at the 1997 Masters, and added 82 PGA Tour victories and 13 more majors over the next 11 years, including four in a row (the “Tiger Slam,”)  before winning his 15th last April at Augusta.

He also holds a number of PGA Tour records including the most cuts made in a row (142) and most weeks spent atop the world golf rankings (683.)  He’s probably done enough to earn the honour.  My wife says perhaps now he’ll stop spitting all over the course.

THE PGA TOUR plans to resume on 11th June at Colonial Country Club for the Charles Schwab Challenge followed by the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town on the 18th.  Both events will be spectator-free.   Fans will be disappointed, but at least they will be spared a close-up view of the ghastly plaid jackets they stick on the winners of both events.

Lockdown letter:   With so much cooking, I recently bought a meter to measure indoor pollution levels and observed high readings of PM2.5 particles when my wife was frying steak.

The link between PM2.5 particles and ill health is similar to that between smoking and lung disease, there is no safe level to avoid long-term risks.  However, I can confirm that there are severe immediate health risks associated with criticising my wife’s cooking.

 Until next time: getting back to Happy Golfing.

Contact Mick for regripping and repairs.  638 859 475.

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